Pierce to forgo op­tion

Wizards for­ward be­comes free agent af­ter by­pass­ing $5.5 mil­lion player op­tion.

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY JORGE CASTILLO jorge.castillo@wash­post.com Ex­cerpted from wash­ing­ton­post.com/wiz­ardsin­sider

Washington Wizards for­ward Paul Pierce has de­cided to play next sea­son but is ex­pected to by­pass his $5.5 mil­lion player op­tion, ac­cord­ing to two peo­ple with knowl­edge of the sit­u­a­tion. The de­ci­sion, which is due by the end of the month, would make Pierce a free agent for the sec­ond straight year.

Opt­ing out opens the pos­si­bil­ity of Pierce play­ing his 18th sea­son else­where but does not elim­i­nate the prospect of his play­ing for Washington. Pierce could choose to re-sign.

The most prob­a­ble des­ti­na­tion other than D.C. would be to go home to play for the Los An­ge­les Clip­pers and re­unite with Doc Rivers, his coach for nine sea­sons with the Bos­ton Celtics. Los An­ge­les has lim­ited salary cap flex­i­bil­ity and likely will be able to of­fer Pierce, 37, only the mi­dlevel ex­cep­tion of $3.37 mil­lion.

Pierce nearly joined the Clip­pers last sum­mer, but Rivers, also the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pres­i­dent of bas­ket­ball oper­a­tions, elected to give the Clip­pers’ en­tire mi­dlevel ex­cep­tion to cen­ter Spencer Hawes. The move was a de­ba­cle, and Hawes, along with Matt Barnes, was traded to the Char­lotte Hor­nets for swing­man Lance Stephen­son last week. Rivers then re­vealed he prefers Stephen­son com­ing off the bench and is in the mar­ket for a start­ing small for­ward.

Pierce av­er­aged ca­reer lows in points (11.2) and min­utes (26.2) and was a de­fen­sive li­a­bil­ity at times in a di­min­ished role last sea­son, but he pro­vided the lead­er­ship the Wizards sought and be­came a fan fa­vorite.

Log­ging more min­utes at power for­ward, Pierce av­er­aged 14.6 points in 29.8 min­utes in 10 play­off games and nailed a few clutch shots, in­clud­ing the gamewin­ning buzzer beater in Game 3 of the Eastern Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nals against At­lanta.

He nearly ex­tended Washington’s sea­son-end­ing Game 6 loss with a three-pointer at the buzzer, but the bas­ket did not count.

That may be his fi­nal act with the Wizards.

“I’m just thank­ful I was able to have an in­flu­ence on this group, give some­thing to them hope­fully,” Pierce said af­ter the Game 6 loss.

“Whether I’m here next year or I’mnot, I’ve left some­thing here with these young guys that they can carry on the rest of their ca­reer— un­der­stand­ing what it’s like to be a pro, un­der­stand­ing what it’s go­ing to take to take your game and your ca­reer to the next level. Hope­fully that’s some­thing I’ve given them, and they un­der­stand it and move for­ward with it.”

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